Trial set for vehicular homicide case

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A trial date has been set for a Bosque man police and prosecutors say killed a father of three and injured one of his daughters while driving drunk earlier this year.

Jacob Williams, 27, will face a jury in mid-December on one count of homicide by vehicle, great bodily harm by vehicle and knowingly leaving the scene of an accident — all third-degree felonies. He is also charged with one count of aggravated DWI, a misdemeanor.

Williams was indicted in February by a Valencia County grand jury after a January crash on Jarales Road. Police say Williams is responsible for the death of Danny Sanchez, 51, of Jarales, and for injuring Sanchez's 11-year-old daughter, Magen.

Last week, Second Judicial District Court Judge Charles Brown set jury selection for the case for Thursday and Friday, Dec. 11-12. Once selected, the jury will start hearing testimony from 15 witnesses in the case on Monday, Dec. 15.

Brown said opening statements from Williams' defense attorney Kari Morrissey and special prosecutor for the state Henry Valdez could be heard as early as Friday, Dec. 12, if jury selection is completed on the previous day.

According to New Mexico State Police, Williams was driving a 2001 Dodge truck southbound on Jarales Road at about 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 25 when he drove left of the center of the two-lane highway. He allegedly hit Sanchez, who was driving his motorcycle, head on, killing him instantly. Both father and daughter were wearing helmets at the time of the crash, State Police Lt. Emmanuel Gutierrez said.

Magen Sanchez underwent several surgeries to her leg and was released from the University of New Mexico Hospital nearly two weeks after the crash.

If convicted of all four counts, Williams could face a maximum sentence of 17 years in prison. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges. He is currently being held on a no-bond hold in the Valencia County Detention Center.

According to the criminal complaint filed in Belen Magistrate Court, when NMSP officer Toby LaFave first spoke with Williams that day, he noticed the suspect's eyes were bloodshot and watery, his speech was slurred and he detected a strong odor of alcohol from his breath.

When the officer asked Williams if he had been drinking, "…(I) was told he had, but (he) did not state the amount or type of alcoholic beverage(s), just stated 'a little,'" LaFave wrote in the criminal complaint. "When asked if he drove to this location, Mr. Williams admitted to being the driver and striking someone or something."

Williams told the officer after noticing the damage to his truck, he pulled off the road, stopped and called police, according to the complaint.

Because of Williams' injuries from the crash, the officer couldn't complete the standardized field sobriety tests.

But, Gutierrez said two breath alcohol content tests were administered, one coming in at .25 and the other at .26, three times the presumed level of intoxication.

Williams previously pleaded no contest and was sentenced to similar charges in the 2006 DWI-related crash that killed Quin Sanchez (no relation to Danny Sanchez) and paralyzed his passenger, Mary Ann Madrid, while they were riding a motorcycle on N.M. 47 in Rio Communities.

According to police reports, Williams was driving a van west on Goodman, failed to stop at the intersection and struck the motorcycle. Quin Sanchez was pronounced dead on scene.

Ironically, now-retired 13th Judicial District Court Judge William Sanchez, Danny Sanchez's brother, was the judge who presided over that case and sentenced Williams to prison in April 2008.

Chief District Judge Louis McDonald had recused all the judges in the 13th Judicial District from hearing the case.

Thirteenth Judicial District Attorney Lemuel Martinez assigned Valdez to prosecute the case, citing a conflict of interest and to "avoid any appearance of impropriety."

Valdez, a former Santa Fe district attorney, is the head of the Administrative Office of the District Attorneys.


-- Email the author at jdendinger@news-bulletin.com.